Wednesday, June 15, 2011
MDT Director Lynch to be Grilled by Legislators at Interim Transportation Committee Hearing
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MDT Director Lynch to be Grilled by Legislators at Interim Transportation Committee Hearing over KMTP Megaloads
Federal Highway Administration to investigate MDT review
At 1 PM on Tuesday June 15th, the Director of the Montana Department of Transportation, Jim Lynch, will present an update on Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil’s Kearl Module Transport Plan (KMTP), for the Interim Revenue and Transportation Committee in room 137 of the Capitol Building in Helena. The presentation will also be available for viewing live online at: http://leg.mt.gov/css/Audio/audio_broadcast.asp.
He’ll get some tough questions from Committee Members.
Following research and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by All Against The Haul (AATH) Board Co-Chair Trish Weber PE, and by a privately contracted structural engineer, to review bridge analyses performed by the Montana and Idaho Departments of Transportation, serious deficiencies have been identified in MDT’s review of Exxon’s megaloads proposal.
In light of those deficiencies, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has directed its Helena office to investigate MDT’s review of the KMTP.
Upon meeting with FHWA officials in Washington, DC, the federal agency agreed with AATH’s concerns based on FOIA requests that revealed discrepancies in the size and weight of trucks analyzed by ITD compared to MDT.
“The Idaho Transportation Department reviewed 14 different truck configurations, while MDT only reviewed one,” said Weber of AATH. “And of those 14, several were larger and heavier than the one reviewed by MDT.”
In addition, All Against The Haul has discovered shortcomings in MDT’s ability to study impacted bridges along the proposed corridor using their bridge analysis software, as evidenced by an email obtained through FOIA, authored by MDT’s Bridge Management Section Supervisor, Mike Murphy in November 2009:
“While we have started to enter all of our bridges into our load rating software, that process is in its early stages so we do not as yet have the overweight bridge analysis procedures automated. To this point we need to do this by hand. To analyze every bridge on every route for every truck configuration we see in these requests, and to do it in the time required for permit issuance would be impossible.”
What’s more, says Weber, MDT has yet to reconcile the fact that they are requiring each load to stop 50 feet before each bridge, and then to travel 5 mph until the crossing is complete, with the fact that they are legally constrained by MDT’s 15-minute traffic-delay rule.
In summation, said Weber: “How does MDT justify constructing turnouts if the agency has not performed a full engineering analysis of every bridge and every truck configuration, and if they have not calculated how speed restrictions can fit within the time delay window allowed by their permitting regulations?”
The status of the KMTP remains in limbo. Following a lawsuit filed by the Missoula County Commissioners and three other plaintiffs under the Montana Environmental Policy Act, MDT and Exxon/Imperial await a ruling from Judge Dayton of Anaconda on whether a preliminary injunction will be granted to stop construction related to the KMTP. A ruling on whether a detailed Environmental Impact Statement will be required – rather than the Environmental Assessment already completed – is also pending.
Meanwhile, ConocoPhillips’ final two Billings-bound megaloads remain parked at the base of Deep Creek Canyon east of Townsend, MT on Highway 12. The loads have been delayed for twenty days due to flooding conditions, and it is unlikely they will be able to move in the near future due to severe road damage along the route, especially in the Roundup, MT area.
In July 2009, Director Lynch made his first KMTP presentation to the Interim Transportation Committee. In now infamous statements, Mr. Lynch testified that the KMTP “would probably lend itself more to an EIS than an EA,” and that “we are actually setting the stage for a high wide corridor through the state of Montana to be used, probably for things that we haven’t even imagined yet.”
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Exxon-Imperial Test Module a Ploy to Deceive Public; MDT Violates FONSI By Issuing Permit
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 9th, 2011
Exxon-Imperial Test Module a Ploy to Deceive Public
MDT Violates FONSI By Issuing Permit
Exxon-Imperial’s so-called “test module,” scheduled to leave Lewiston, ID on Monday evening, “is in violation of MDT’s Finding of No Significant Impact document, and a blatant ploy to sneak loads through Idaho and Montana by intentionally deceiving the public,” says megaload opponent Zack Porter, Campaign Coordinator for All Against The Haul. “This load cannot be cut in half, unlike others sitting at the Port of Lewiston. If the pending lawsuit leads to significant delays or a cancelation of the Kearl Module Transport Plan, the load would have to be shipped back down the Columbia River, and potentially around the Panama Canal, to get it to Alberta.”
An actual test module was already sent along the route in February 2010. (For details, see: “Testing for size: Trial run for this summer’s huge oil equipment moves smoothly” - Missoulian - http://missoulian.com/news/local/article_55a7d28a-2365-11df-a226-001cc4c002e0.html.)
Porter’s remarks come on the heel of an MDT announcement stating that they will issue permits for Exxon-Imperial’s second “test module.” The module would travel through Idaho along Highway 12 from Lewiston to Lolo Pass, and approximately eight miles into Montana before parking near Lolo Hot Springs. According to Imperial Oil officials, the load will clock in at over 500,000 pounds, 24 feet wide, 30 feet high, and 200 feet long.
Until Friday, MDT had withheld a permit for the load. According to that agency’s Finding of No Significant Impact document (FONSI), none of Exxon-Imperial’s 207 loads can travel on Highway 12 in Montana until turnouts are constructed or modified to accommodate the safety of the traveling public. According to the Final Environmental Assessment/FONSI, three of those turnouts are located between Lolo Pass and Lolo Hot Springs, and construction would have to be completed before any 32-J oversized load permits could be issued. Because of those requirements, opponents assert MDT issued the test module permit, illegally.
Exxon-Imperial, in a press release dated Friday April 8th, claims the load will mimic future large modules, and that it was specifically designed for testing purposes.
But megaload opponents, including Robbie Liben of the No Shipments Network in Missoula, allege that the “test module,” which has been sitting at the Port for most of the last year, is anything but: “The blue building [see attached photos] that Exxon-Imperial falsely labels as a ‘test module’ is nothing other than one of the original 207 loads proposed in the Kearl Module Transport Plan. It was never designed to test anything; rather, it is one of several modules at the Port of Lewiston that cannot be reduced in size to travel Interstate highways.”
In recent weeks, Exxon-Imperial has begun the process of reducing the size of 30 out of the 33 modules shipped to the Port of Lewiston in the summer of 2010. Although Exxon originally claimed the loads could not be made smaller, 30 are now being cut in half so to accommodate Interstate-highway travel to Alberta. The three remaining modules - including the “test module” proposed for transport on Monday - cannot be reduced in size without destroying the equipment.
“Exxon is scared,” says Porter. “If the Kearl Module Transport Project is held up in court for months or years - if not permanently - their only recourse would be to ship these loads back down the Columbia River, for transport to Alberta using established routes from Houston, Texas or Thunder Bay, Ontario.”
“Exxon’s portrayal of the test module is a bald-face lie, and MDT has violated the findings of its own Final Environmental Assessment by issuing permits for this load,” Porter added.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Exxon Megaloads Opponents Voice Support for Missoula City Council Ordinance to Protect Taxpayers
On Monday night, Missoula-area opponents of ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips’ proposed megaload corridors will voice their support for the Missoula City Council as they vote to protect taxpayers by increasing the City’s fees and bonding requirements for massively oversized loads. Grassroots members of All Against The Haul, Northern Rockies Rising Tide, and the No Shipments Network will be present for the vote, along with representatives from anti-Tar Sands campaigns across the US and Canada, who have gathered this weekend near Missoula for four days of networking and strategizing.
In August of this year, the Missoula City Council adopted a temporary emergency ordinance that doubled the fees and bonds for over size loads traveling through the city. The council passed the emergency updates in response to the more than 200 big rigs ExxonMobil plans to send down Reserve Street on their way to the Alberta tar sands.
Councilman Dave Strohmaier says the ordinance - which normally applies to house moving - was overdue for a face lift and that this is a chance for them to clean up the language and update an ordinance that has been on the books for a long time. However he concedes “the timing is not merely a coincidence.”
Strohmaier says the updates make two essential changes that will affect the oil giant. First, they will significantly increase the bond it is required to pay from $10,00 to $20,000. This is to ensure that any damage caused to city infrastructure by the uncommonly large rigs will not be left up to tax payers. “If traffic signals are messed up or there are any other unforeseen consequences, Missoula won’t be left in the lurch,” Strohmaier said.
The second major change will allow the city to deny permits in certain circumstances. “That would mean Missoula has discretion to deny permits if impacts to the city have not been sufficiently reviewed,” he said.
Strohmaier said he wishes the city could do more to regulate the rigs which may weigh up to eight times as much as the average loaded semi-truck. “This is a terrible thing for Missoula,” he said. “It is the general sentiment of the Council that this has in no way shape or form been given enough scrutiny.”
Since the trucks will spend the majority of their trip on state highways most decisions will be made by the Montana Transportation Department. But the City of Missoula is exploring what power it may have over the route the trucks take. “Our hands are tied in some ways but we are doing what we can,” Strohmaier said.
Monday’s 7PM hearing will provide anyone who wishes to comment a chance to voice their concerns. City Council chambers are located at 140 W. Pine St.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
40 Regional Organizations Call On NW Congressional Delegations and Governors for Detailed Review
On September 23rd, 40 organizations from across the Northwest sent a letter to the Congressional delegations and Governors of Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, calling for detailed economic and environmental review of oil giant ExxonMobil’s proposed establishment of an oversize-load corridor through those states. “We hope you will oppose [the project],” write the letter’s authors, “but now we ask your help to assure that full environmental, economic and alternatives assessment by the federal government takes place before any federal decisions to permit it.”
Organizations that signed on include All Against The Haul, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, Association of Northwest Steelheaders, Montana Trout Unlimited, National Wildlife Federation, Clark Fork Coalition, Federation of Western Outdoor Clubs, and the Northwest Guides and Anglers Association, among others.
The announcement comes on the heels of letters of opposition from the Lolo and Clearwater National Forests’ Supervisors, and a letter calling for review of detrimental impacts to taxpayers by Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Highways.
Until this point, project review has largely occurred at the state level, although the Lolo National Forest recently began its review process by scoping for public comment on burial of power lines along Highway 12 in Montana – public comment is due Friday the 24th.
In the letter, signatories contend that there should be far more federal involvement than there has been: “We believe state and federal laws have been broken, and large investments in the route have already been made in advance of necessary permits being issued. Federal agencies have so far refused to acknowledge the public need for, much less conduct, a full analysis of the project’s purposes, costs, benefits, risks, and alternatives. This bureaucratic shuffle mimics the irresponsible conduct of federal agencies on BP’s Deepwater Horizon project in the Gulf. It serves Exxon’s purposes well, but disserves the people you represent.”
Citing “[risks] to public safety” and unavoidable disruptions to “emergency services, business, recreational and other uses,” the letter decries costs to taxpayers and the damage that the project will cause to the region’s rural communities and booming outdoors-related industries.
“There is no question that this is a federal issue,” said Zack Porter, one of the letter’s signers and a campaign coordinator with All Against The Haul, a group working to support efforts in the four-state region to stop the establishment of a new industrial corridor. “It’s time for our elected and appointed officials to step up to the plate to protect the interests of the public over multi-national corporations. Residents of Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon won’t stand for anything less.”